Junesploitation 2021: Pennies From Heaven (1981)

June 20: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie — is musicals!

For the exact same reasons why I find Pennies from Heaven to be a success, I can see why it failed at the box office.

Pennies from Heaven was Steve Martin’s first dramatic role in a film. After watching the original BBC miniseries, he was convinced that it was the greatest thing he’d ever seen. So he learned how to tap dance and chose the film to follow up The Jerk.

He’d later tell Rolling Stone, “I’m disappointed that it didn’t open as a blockbuster and I don’t know what’s to blame, other than it’s me and not a comedy. I must say that the people who get the movie, in general, have been wise and intelligent; the people who don’t get it are ignorant scum.”

He also told the Chicago Tribune “Everything I had done until that time had been wildly successful so that the commercial failure of the film caught me by surprise.”

But yeah. He also would tell the BBC at one point that you don’t follow up The Jerk with this movie.

During the Great Depression, Chicago sheet-music salesman Arthur Parker (Martin) struggles in his business and in his marriage to Joan (Jessica Harper*), who refuses to give him any money to start his own business. His dream is to live in the world of the songs that he writes, which leads him to wander for a while. During this time, he meets a schoolteacher named Eileen (Bernadette Peters) and falls in love with her, but he soon returns to his wife.

The affair has led to a pregnancy and Eileen loses her job. After an abortion, she becomes Lulu, a lady of the night in the employee of a pimp named Tom (Christopher Walken). Yet when they find each other again, Arthur and Lulu remember their love and run away after destroying his store.

It all falls apart when a girl is assaulted and killed, with Arthur suspected and his wife telling the police that he’s perverted. He’s arrested and goes to death row, but his fantasy life takes over, as he sings “Pennies from Heaven” on the gallows. The film closes with him telling Lulu, “We couldn’t have gone through all that without a happy ending. Songs ain’t like that, are they?”

At one point in the film, Arthur and Eileen go to see the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie Follow the Fleet and then become part of the movie and dance through “Let’s Face the Music and Dance.” In Astaire, The Biography, Fred Astaire would say, “I have never spent two more miserable hours in my life. Every scene was cheap and vulgar… it makes you cry it’s so distasteful.” However, it has been reported that he liked Walken’s dancing.

Director Herbert Ross recovered from this movie bombing and made FootlooseThe Secret of My SuccessSteel MagnoliaBoys on the Side and many more films. Dennis Potter, who wrote the BBC series and this film, would go on to write Gorky Park and The Singing Detective.

You know who was a fan of this movie? Anton LaVey. It appears on the Church of Satan film list and Dr. LaVey went on record saying, “The sets and the characters were 100% authentic.”

*Do you think Ms. Harper ever thinks to herself, “Between SuspiriaPhantom of the Paradise and Shock Treatment, do you think that I can maybe not be in a cult musical movie and maybe something that could get me rich?”

Junesploitation 2021: Fantasy Mission Force (1983)

June 19: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie — is Jackie Chan!

Fantasy Mission Force is one of the first movies I ever owned. It was a cheap VHS tape and I was so excited to own a Jackie Chan movie in the mid-80s. However, once I watched it, I absolutely hated it. I didn’t understand why Jackie was barely in it or what a Hong Kong mo lei tau movie was.

Mo lei tau means nonsense, a type of slapstick that was developed in Hong Kong that places elements that should not belong together, often with anachronisms and things that should in no way go together.

That explains why this movie, set during World War II, begins with the Japanese attack on Canada, where four generals, including Abraham Lincoln, are taken by the enemy. Lieutenant Don Wen leads the rescue, putting together a team. At first, he rejects James Bond, Rocky, Albert from Aces Go Places and Snake Plissken because he heard that he’s dead. He ends up with a dirty kind of dozen that includes two kilt-wearing weirdos, a homeless man named Old Sun, Greased Lightning the escape artist, Billy and Lily (Brigitte Lin, The Bride with the White Hair). They’re soon joined by two criminals who want money named Emily and Sammy (Jackie, finally showing up).

Don Wen dies pretty quickly when some natives attack them, followed by cannibals led by a man in a tuxedo. That man would be Yu Jin Xiang and his music is that of Chor Lauheung, a martial arts soap opera in which the actor who plays this role, Adam Cheng, appeared on. He was typecast as a James Bond type, which is why he plays this role in the movie.

After our gang kills them off, they must spend the night in a haunted house staffed by Chinese hopping vampires before they find the base. But when they get there, the generals are gone and the Japanese are all dead.

They barely have a second to catch their breath before German troops in 1970s cars attack them, except they’re all Japanese and dressed like they’ve come out of Mad Max. Everyone in the cast is killed as the movie suddenly gets dark — I was ill-prepared for this narrative switch — and only Sammy, Emily and Old Sun survive, but the older man is soon killed by Don Wen, who survived and orchestrated the whole thing.

This leads to a fight and Jackie of course wins, before driving off with the girl. But hey — Don Wen is playing by Jimmy Wang Yu, the man who starred in movies like Master of the Flying Guillotine and The One Armed Swordsmen.

So why did Jackie make this movie? Well, he owed director Jimmy Wang Yu a favor, because  Wang Yu negotiated on Chan’s behalf during a Triad dispute over his contract between Golden Harvest and Chan’s former employer Wei Lo. It’s also why Jackie made the movie Island of Fire.

This movie is goofy beyond belief, with music stolen from Planet of the Apes, HalloweenTourist Trap and The Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion. But best of all, it has Brigitte Lin shooting a bazooka. I’ve come around to this movie in my old age, but trust me, it’s really something.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Junesploitation 2021: The Passover Plot (1976)

June 19: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie — is free.

Hugh J. Schonfield was a British Bible scholar who specialized in the study of the New Testament and the early development of the Christian religion. I bet he never believed that when he went from being one of the original Dead Sea Scrolls team members and writing a non-ecclesiastical historical translation of the New Testament to writing The Passover Plot that it’d be made into a movie with Zalman King, Dan Hedaya and Donald Pleasence.

The central thesis of Schonfield’s book that Jesus was completely convinced that He was the Messiah, as he was a descendent of King David. Therefore, he calculated His journey, keeping many of the Disciples on a need-to-know basis of his true plans, which ultimately included dying on the cross and being resurrected so that He could rule as a king on Earth.

Then things went wrong.

The plan was that Jesus would not end up being on the cross for more than a few hours, as Jewish people by law had to be taken down in time for Sabbath. One of His followers was to give him a drug to knock him out. Then, Joseph of Arimathea would take His body while Jesus healed. However, a Roman soldier — one assumes the one played by John Wayne in The Greatest Story Ever Told — stabbed Jesus and killed him before The Passover Plot could be completed.

Producer by Wolf Schmidt and Menahem Golan (yes!), The Passover Plot was written by Paul Golding (the writer of Beat Street), Patricia Louisianna Knop (the writer of 9 1/2 WeeksWild OrchidRed Show Diaries and the wife of Zalman King) and Millard Cohan.

Jesus — called Yeshua of Nazareth — is intense, but that’s because that’s Zalman King’s acting style. He’s up against Pontius Pilate (Pleasence), who is working with the Jewish High Priests to rule what will someday be The Holy Land. There’s a commotion at the temple, presumably led by Barabbas, which Jesus hopes to calm so that He can bring the people together and become the Messiah. Either that or ask Jusad (Scott Wilson) to betray him so that he can fake his death.

This movie plays fast and loose with the Gospel and the direction by Michael Campus — yes, the same man who made The Mack and Z.P.G. — is kind of wild. But hey! It has a score from Alex North, who did Spartacus and Cleopatra, plus Academy Award-nominated costumes by Mary Willis, who also worked on both the TV movie and original versions of The Diary of Anne Frank.

How about this for weird? This movie has the same cinematographer as Lemon Popsicle and The Last American Virgin, Adam Greenberg.

My favorite thing about this whole controversy was that Pat Boone bought national syndicated TV time to create an hour-long show asking people not to go see this movie. In fact, he even called Donald Pleasence on the phone to ask him why he was in it, thereby proving my theory that Mr. Pleasence never said no to anything that would have him perform on camera.

Also, in The Greatest Story Ever Told, Pat played the Angel at the Tomb. Who did Donald play? Satan.

Junesploitation 2021: La Pretora (1976)

June 17: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie — is Lucio Fulci.

Lucio Fulci was born in Trastavere, Rome 94 years ago today. The son of a single mother from a Sicilian anti-fascist family, he was raised by her and a female housekeeper who encouraged him to be a lawyer, but he ended up going to medical school. After dropping out, he worked as an art critic before apprenticing at the Centro Sperimentale.

While he’s become known as the Godfather of Gore, Fulci didn’t start making his most famous horror work until 1979, a full 21 years after he wrote his first script, Toto in the Moon. He worked with the famous Italian director Steno on several of Toto’s films before directing the films of Franco Franchi and Ciccio Ingrassia (How We Robbed the Bank of ItalyThe Swindlers).

His career covers nearly every genre. Westerns (Massacre TimeSilver SaddleThe Four of the Apocalypse), giallo, both before and after Argento (Perversion StoryDon’t Torture a DucklingThe PsychicA Lizard In a Woman’s Skin), poliziotteschi (Contraband), post-apocalyptic science fiction (Warriors of the Year 2072), peplum by of Conan (Conquest) and even family fare (White FangWhite Fang to the Rescue).

So while Fulci may be known for his eye-popping horrors — and rightfully so — I wanted to celebrate his birthday by checking out another genre he covered, the commedia sexy all’italiana.

If you’re making one of those movies, you need an attractive female lead. And this movie boats perhaps the finest example of an actress in the genre, the French-born Edwige Fenech, who like Fulci also had a Sicilian mother. While she’s known for her work in giallo such as The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key, All the Colors of the Dark, The Case of the Bloody Iris and Strip Nude for Your Killer, Fenech also found her greatest  box office success in this very Italian sex comedy genre, making appearances in movies like Ubalda, All Naked and WarmGiovannona Long-ThighPoker In BedConfessions of a Lady CopThe Schoolteacher and many more.

La Pretora, which translates as My Sister In Law, stars Fenech in two roles. She’s Judge Viola Orlando, a tough arbiter of the law who is feared in the Veneto regions (which includes Venice, in case you wonder where this takes place). She’s made plenty of enemies, who soon learn that her sister Rosa is a woman of loose morals who appears in adult magazines. They hope to confuse her images and reputation with that of our protagonist.

Beyond dealing with an outraged populace who can’t believe that a judge could appear nude in a magazine, Viola is also dealing with her love life — or lack thereof — with her fiancee, who wishes that she was as open as her bad seed sister.

Working from a script by husband and wife Franco Marotta and Laura Toscano(, who also wrote the original Inglorious Bastards, this movie finds Fulci not working with an unfamiliar crew, such as cinematographer Luciano Trasatti, who was the director of photography on And God Said to Cain.

However, Fulci had plenty of experience with editor Ornella Micheli (Dracula in the Provinces, Operation St. Peter’sDon’t Torture a Duckling) and would work with assistant director Roberto Giandalia on The PsychicZombiContrabandCity of the Living DeadThe Black CatThe BeyondHouse by the CemeteryThe New York RipperManhattan Baby and Murder Rock.

I understand that these movies were made so that guys could ogle Edwige Fenech — seriously, there’s a moment in this movie where men literally become Tex Avery wolves with their eyes bugging out so much that Fulci had to just be dying inside with the need to smash or pierce them — many don’t take the time to notice just how good she is in these films, able to master comedy that transcends the time and language barrier.

As for Fulci’s work here, the movie looks great, but if only knew him from his 1979 and beyond — pun unintended — films, you may never guess that this was him. He also made another sex comedy, The Eroticist, that I want to check out. And it’s pretty amazing when you think about the fact that more than a quarter of his films were comedies.

Junesploitation 2021: Keaton’s Cop (1990)

June 16: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie — is a film from Cannon Studios.

The ’80s were the comeback decade, for both William Shatner and Lee Majors returned to our small screens with T.J Hooker (1982 – 1986) and The Fall Guy (1981 – 1986)*, respectively. And both were shows good ol’ dad and I could enjoy together. And we were both equally perturbed when they were simultaneously cancelled.

Now you would think, with a second hit TV series, that Lee would have been back in mainstream Hollywood’s good graces and return to his stalled theatrical career from the early ’80s. But it seemed the contractual dust-up during the last year of The Six Million Dollar Man back in 1977 wasn’t forgotten. There’s two sides to the story: Majors either caught a case of the Tinseltown Flu to force Universal into accepting his Fawcett-Majors Productions as a series co-producer or he held out for a pay raise. Either way, the executive suites in la-la land don’t take kindly to their actors pulling a creative coup.

So after saddling up in the late ’80s as Mountain Dan alongside Dolly Parton (with Henry “The Fonz” Winkler directing!) in A Smoky Mountain Christmas and two Six Million Dollar Man-Bionic Woman telefilms, Majors made it back to the big screen . . . well, it was only a matter of time until Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus wrangled Lee Majors into one of their deadbeat, direct-to-video productions.

Granted, we love Cannon Films around the B&S About Movies offices, for their imprint was ’80s VHS-rental de rigueur, with all of the Death Wish sequels and Chuck Norris flicks, such as Invasion U.S.A. and The Delta Force series. And all of the Ninja-suffixed films. And all of our beloved Micheal Dudikoff flicks. In fact, by 1986, Cannon reached a production milestone of distributing 43 films in one year, as the studio broke away from their usual direct-to-videoesque potboilers to big-budgeted theatrical features such as (the less than stellar) Lifeforce and Masters of the Universe, (and the cheesily awesome) Cobra and Over the Top.

Sadly, by the time the Israeli cousins of the celluloid frontiers roped the services of Lee Majors, Cannon was in financial and creative ruins . . . and four years away from its inevitable demise. So, instead of putting Majors in a halfway decent flick sidekickin’ with Chuck Norris in something like Firewalker or slipping him into Roy Scheider’s role in (a pretty decent Elmore Leonard film adaptation) 52 Pick Up, our ex-Bionic stunt man ended up in Keaton’s Cop.

Huh?

You know, the 48 Hours Lethal Weapon buddy-cop rip-off film that paired Lee Majors with Don Rickles. Yes. You heard me right. Mr. Warmth from all of those The Johnny Carson Show reruns on Antenna TV. The guy who did all of those goofy “beach party” movies with Frankie and Annette back in the ’60s. The guy who you’ve seen many a-cable-replay times as casino manager Billy Sherbet in Martin Scorsese’s Casino. But the younger kiddies ’round these wilds of Allegheny country probably remember Don Rickles best as the acidic Mr. Potato Head in Toy Story. Oh, and if you’re a horror hound like most of B&S’s readers: Don was Manny Bergman in the (pretty cool) mobster-vamp hybrid Innocent Blood by John Landis.

But here’s ol’ Don . . . twenty-years later, following up his last big screen role in 1970’s Kelly Heroes with Clint Eastwood, in the Danny Glover role as Jake Barber: the aged detective sidekick paired with Mike Gable, a burnt-out, on-the-edge veteran cop with a penchant for throwing suspects out windows — and losing partners, via death. Oh, and speaking of Cobra . . . guess who their boss is . . . hey, it’s Art LaFleur rippin’ through a Xerox redux of his role from that Stallone flick. (Plot spoiler: we lose Don early in the movie, natch, and he’s not funny here; he plays it straight, as he did in Innocent Blood and Casino.) Oh, and speaking of Cobra, again: Remember the big “character development” scene when Marion Cobretti cut off a slice of three-day-old pizza with a pair of scissors? Well, Keaton’s Cop has one: Mike Gable brushes his teeth with beer. (Remember when Brian “Boz” Bosworth mixed that “health drink” in a blender during the “establishing scene” in Stone Cold (1991) and we wondered, “how can he drink that” . . . and it ended up being gruel for his bet iguana? Hey, all of these action flicks needed one of those “character development” moments, natch.)

So, I see you noticed the name of Abe Vigoda on the box. Yes, he from those endless AMC and TNT reruns of The Godfather and those old Barney Miller episodes you’ve Antenna TV-channel grazed as you surfed the couch after a long Saturday night of partying. Eh, maybe you remember Abe in The Cannonball Run II, The Stuff, or the oddest Christmas flick of them all, Prancer.

Anyway, Ol’ Abe is Louis Keaton, an aged-out mobster living his days incognito in a Galveston, Texas, nursing home. When Gable is dispatched to the nursing home to investigate a shooting, he comes to discover the intended target was Keaton and the shooter was a mob hitman. And since Barber and Vigoda go “way back,” Barber convinces the guff n’ grizzled Gable to take part of the action-comedy-romance (with a home nurse that is way too young for him) that ensues.

Truth be told: Even though this a pinch-o-rama rip off, Majors is solid here, the comedy is funny (both of the sometimes-intentional and non-intentional variety), and it’s nice to see a then 69-year-old Abe Vigoda digging in his heels and getting banged around with film’s promoted “hard-edged action.” But still. Lee Majors deserved better. Way better. Like the very similar Martin Brest-directed and Robert DeNiro-starring Midnight Run from 1988-better (which Majors’s old bosses, Universal, backed). But that’s how the dice in Hollywood roll across the green felts of fate.

No freebie streams? What the hell, You Tube uploaders? What gives, ye executives at Tubi TV? Ah, but we found a rental-stream on Amazon Prime. Keaton’s Cop has never been officially reissued on DVD, so watch out for those bogus-cum-defective grey market rips out there, kiddies.

* Stock footage alert: Action scenes from our “Fast and Furious Week II” review of Flash and the Firecat ended up in The Fall Guy (the clip is included in the review).

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

We previously reviewed Keaton’s Cop as part of our “Lee Majors Week” blow out featuring reviews for 30 of Lee’s flicks.

Junesploitation 2021: Enter the Ninja (1981)

June 16: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie — is Cannon.

Cannon Films need to be on our site more often, but that’s because I want to make sure that I have the time and energy to properly focus on this astounding company. But hey — let’s get things started by talking about Enter the Ninja, a movie written by the man who stole Priscilla from Elvis, Mike Stone, and nearly starred in it before his acting ability supposedly wasn’t good enough for a ninja movie Luckily, Franco Nero was in the Philippines and Stone was nice enough to remain on set as the fight double for Nero and the fight/stunt coordinator.

That’s right — Django as a ninja. Make that a ninja that cucks his best friend and arrdvarking his wife Susan George and then fighting Sho Kosugi.

If you were wonding why I loved Cannon Films so much, just read that last sentence again.

Cole (Nero) is a soldier who has become a ninja — much like Snake-Eyes in the Marvel comics — before he visits his war buddy Frank Landers and his new wife Mary Ann (Ms. George) who own a giant farm in the Philippines that is threatened by Charles Venarius (Christopher George), whose Venarius Industries wants the oil that’s on their land.

After said cuckolding — Frank had already drunkenly confessed to our hero that he couldn’t life his own katana, so to speak — Venarius’ henchmen kill Frank and kidnap Mary Ann. That means that Cole has to battle his way through all of the many soldiers in his way before battling his old sword brother Hasegawa (Sho Kosugi).

Directed by Menahem Golan, who also gave us The Apple, this is actually the exact kind of movie that I want it to be. Golan said, “It started when Chinese karate films became popular. I looked for something new in Asian martial arts and found information about the ninja culture in an encyclopedia. The ninja were middle-class people in Japan — lawyers, government clerks, etc. It was a secret organization that helped the feudal government. It actually preceded the Chinese karate battles. They used very special methods, developing their sixth sense. That fascinated me and I said I could write story ideas out of it, so we made Enter the Ninja and American Warrior later on. Many imitations followed.”

Actually, Emmett Alston was supposed to be the film’s original director. Supposedly Charles Bronson refused to allow Golan to direct Death Wish II. Alston directed Force of the Ninja and Nine Deaths of the Ninja, which is somehow even better than this.

Also, I know that we got a whole bunch of Kosugi ninja movies, which I love, but man, why did we not get another Franco Nero in karate PJs movie?

Junesploitation 2021: The Curse II: The Bite (1989)

June 15: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie — is sequels!

The only thing better than a sequel is one that’s in name only. That’s exactly what The Curse II: The Bite is all about. It’s really a movie called The Bite, which was directed by Fred Goodwin, who is really Frederico Prosperi, whose only other credit is producing the nature on the loose movie The Wild Beasts.

The film came to be after the success of The Curse. Producer Ovidio G. Assonitis and his company TriHoof Investments started making this film and another called The Train, which also became an in-name-only sequel as well called Beyond the Door III (AKA Amok Train).

Our heroes are young lovers Clark (J. Eddie Peck, the star of Lambada) and Lisa (Jill Schoelen, who is one of my favorite unheralded scream queens with roles in The StepfatherCutting ClassThe Phantom of the Opera, PopcornWhen a Stranger Calls Back and Chiller) whose cross-country trip has taken them right past an abandoned nuclear test site crawling with mutant snakes. Clark gets bit and starts to slowly mutate into a snake himself.

Luckily, Lisa has some help from a sheriff (Bo Svenson) and Harry Morton (Jamie Farr) a traveling salesman who is also a doctor of sorts. He tries to treat the snakebite and uses the wrong medication, which pushes the mutation further as he furtively seeks the couple out to save them as much as he’s trying to save himself from a malpractice lawsuit. Why is a travelling salesman also a doctor? That’s just how the world of this movie works.

Also, if you ever wanted to see a movie where Jamie Farr has conjugal relations with trucker women, come on down to Curse II: The Bite!

There are some great Screaming Mad George effects in this, as well as an astounding scene where Clark tries to use his hand in a Biblical manner on Lisa. His mutated snake hand. Man, I was screaming at the television! Stick with this movie because while it starts off slow, but it gets ooey, gooey and great by the end. And by great, the kind of great when Italian filmmakers are let loose in America. You know what I’m talking about.

This worked out so well that a movie called Panga became Curse III: Blood Sacrifice and Catacombs was retitled Curse IV: The Ultimate Sacrifice.

Junesploitation 2021: Ninja Zombie (1992)

June 14: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie — is kung fu.

Shot on Super 8 in Chicago and never released on any format, Ninja Zombie made its way to our world via Bleeding Skull! and AGFA.

Karate expert Jack has been stabbed through the heart by a martial arts master with a spider on his face named Spithrachne. He becomes a ninja zombie with the help of Brother Banjo, a voodoo master and tennis lover who wants to help our hero get his revenge.

Writer/director Mark Bessenger is making a movie right now called Satan’s Not Dead which is all about a kid who escapes a church’s mass suicide ritual in order to kill the Devil. I mean, the guy knows how to put together something I want to see.

Ninja Zombie is a great example of that. A spider cult of martial artists versus an undead ninja with a mullet but shot on Super 8? That’s exactly the kind of movie that I demand goes directly into my eyes.

Sure, it’s not the kind of movie that would play in theaters, but when has that ever stopped you from liking something? If it has, wow, you’re on the wrong site.

Junesploitation 2021: Private Lessons (1981)

June 13: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie — is ’80s comedy!

Dan Greenburg has written plenty of books, including the Zack Films and Secrets of Dripping Fang children’s books. He’s also had several of his books made into movies, including the Elvis Presley film Live a Little, Love a Little, which was based off his work Kiss My Firm But Pliant Lips, Foreplay, Private SchoolThe Guardian and the movie we’re about to discuss, which was based on his book Philly.

It’s directed by Alan Myerson, who was O.K. Corrales in Billy Jack and directed Police Academy 5, as well as episodes of Ally McBeal, Friends, The Larry Sanders Show and more. In case you’re wondering, “Does Alan Myerson know comedy?” the answer is yes, as he’s one of the people who helped found The Committee, which counted folks like Howard Hesseman, David Ogden Stiers, Carl Gottlieb, Rob Reiner and Del Close.

That said, Private Lessons made me question my younger self. To wit: when you’re fifteen years old, the opportunity to lose one’s virginity to Sylvia Kristel seems like a dream come true. But when you’re getting close to fifty, you start to cringe at scenes where she tries to lure this film’s protagonist into a bathtub or makes out with him in the back of a limo. It doesn’t seem like a fantasy any longer. It feels wrong.

Philip “Philly” Fillmore (Eric Brown, Waxwork) is a 15-year-old high school student whose father has left him alone for the summer with the only supervision coming from Lester the chauffeur (Howard Hesseman) and Nicole Mallow (Kristel), the family’s new French maid. Sure, Kristel is really Dutch, but we’re not here to quibble about her nationality.

All of her seduction games with our newly pubescent protagonist are all a ruse. She’s an illegal alien who Lester is using in a scheme against Philly and his father. Once they have sex, she’s going to fake her death and Lester will help Philly bury her body. Then, the kid will have to steal ten grand to keep the mysterious demise of Nicole a secret.

The weird thing is, even when Philly busts Lester, he ends up letting the guy keep his job. Once you also see this movie through the eyes of someone from 2021, you realize that Philly is a rich white kid who is going to grow up to be a creep, empowered by the knowledge that he was able to subjugate those in castes below him and still get to repeatedly struggle snuggle with the woman who was once Emmanuelle, despite the fact that she states numerous times in the movie that she feels guilt for having taken his innocence. He has no innocence to speak of, as the last scene in the film shows, where he boldly inquires for a date with a teacher who already informed him that she found his intentions upsetting. I guess money can solve so much, but I wouldn’t really know.

Now for the fun parts.

This movie was Jack Barry & Dan Enright Productions, who usually stuck to producing game shows. They even used one of their announcers, Jay Stewart, to do the trailer’s voice-over. Barry received a lot of hate mail for this film from loyal viewers of his shows who were disgusted by the content of Private Lessons. As a result, he never made another film again.

Yet even more intriguing was the fact that this was the first picture for Jensen Farley Pictures, a subsidiary of Sunn Classic Pictures. Yes, after years of making movies just for America’s families, Jensen Farley would release stuff like The Boogens and another movie where an older woman — Joan Collins! — would deflower a younger man, Homework.

I can’t even imagine the music budget on this movie, because it has everything from Air Supply’s  “Lost In Love” to Eric Clapton, Earth, Wind and Fire, John Cougar and “Hot Legs” “Tonight’s The Night,” and “You’re in My Heart” from Rod Stewart.

It’s also the American debut of Jan de Bont, who was the cinematographer here and would go on to make Speed and Twister.

I should mention that I despise Eric Brown even more now, because not only did he get to do multiple love scenes with Sylvia Kristel, but he did the very same thing in They’re Playing With Fire, except that that time, the kid got to appear with Sybil Danning.

Another last revelation: I now realize that many of the women I’ve dated are just me trying to find my own Sylvia Kristel. Sadly, the real thing had a very rough life that was dominated by addiction and a quest to find a man who could replace her father.

Man, I should never write about comedies, huh?

You can watch this on Tubi.

PS: I totally forgot that Pamela Bryant from Don’t Answer the Phone! is in this.

Junesploitation 2021: Legion of Iron (1990)

June 12: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie — is sci fi!

I have no idea why people aren’t losing their minds and talking about this movie all the time.

High school football star Billy Hamilton and his cheerleader girlfriend Allison are kidnapped in the middle of a date and taken to an underground base that houses a fight club somewhere beneath Las Vegas because that’s the world of this movie and I love it.

They’re now part of the Legion of Iron, a place where men become gladiators and women become playthings and man, 1990 wasn’t that long ago for a movie like this to be made. It’s like someone read all the Gor books and said, “The movies weren’t disquieting enough and I’m going to be the maniac that changes that,” and made this.

As our heroes watch the first gladiator fight, things get unsetting in a hurry, as the leader of all this, Diana (Erika Nann, who was in Animal Instincts and Night Rhythms before appearing in the video game Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots proving that Hideo Kojima loves direct to video 80s and 90s movies as much as all of us) forces them to watch a battle to the death between Mad Dog and Rex (Stefanos Miltsakakis, Frankenstein’s Monster in Waxwork II, in addition to being a frequent JCVD fight partner). As Rex is the winner, he’s allowed to forcibly take Allison while Diana makes her man watch.

In the first fifteen minutes of the film, we’ve already had a kidnapping, the revelation of a secret shadow world of white slavery and gladiatorial combat under the Western United States, said gladiatorial combat and an assault. This movie isn’t worried about offending anyone and everyone.

Billy is in similar danger, because the guards think this is the Roman empire and keep trying to take him themselves when Diana isn’t tying him up and forcibly engaging him in martial congress. So our hero now has a reason to kill Rex and needs a mentor, who he finds in ex-pro football player Lyle Wagner. Enter a series of montages, in which our boy learns how to become a man or least fight in American Gladiator-like challenges to the death. Lyle is also pretty much Yoda, as he utters things like, “Haven’t you heard? Superman’s black, freakface!” and “The worst thing that can happen is death.”

At some point, Billy and Allison try to escape, which ends with everyone in the cast beating Billy down with sticks and when that isn’t good enough, Diana repeatedly makes Allison brutalize her boyfriend before allowing all of the gladiators to have their way with her. This makes Billy even more determined to kill Rex, which he does, showing up in a silver sparkly glitter costume that has amazing shoulder pads. His contest with the big bad is pretty much our hero repeatedly striking the much larger man in the testicle again and again. I mean, when you’re working a body part, work the body part, even if it is the ball bag.

The entire time this battle was happening, Lyle was making machine guns in the orgy bed chamber. This allows our heroes to have a massive uprising while battling the Chinese version of the Legion of Iron, which posits that there are small gladiator sex cults all over the world. After an insane battle that involves people getting machine-gunned in the nuts, throwing stars and nearly everyone dying, Billy and Allison get away, but not before being attacked by Diana flying the kind of plane John Denver died in.

Seriously, Diana is the heroine of this movie for me. She escaped a life as a showgirl and dancing in Vegas to lead an army of maniacs under the earth and continues said empire by kidnapping high school football stars. In the scene where she ties up Billy and tries to explain the fact that people are all commodities, he spits in her face and instead of being a shrinking violet, she says, “Go ahead and spit on me, if it turns you on.” Then she explains the difference between love and hate when giving him an old fashioned. She should have been the main character of like ten more movies.

This was the first movie that Yakov Bentsvi ever directed and he waited fourteen years to make another. Writer Steven Schoenberg was the editor of Can I Do It ‘Till I Need Glasses? and Hamburger: The Motion Picture, so who knew he had such pent-up insanity?

If you ever watched the aforementioned American Gladiators and said, “Is there any BDSM-obsessed fan fiction of this show?,” Legion of Iron is the film for you.

You can watch this on Tubi.